Spontaneous Happiness - by Andrew Weil

Ralph Waldo Emerson: "All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better."

Caring for the Body

Cytokines are the principal chemical mediators of the inflammatory response. Anything you can do to keep them within their proper bounds will reduce your risks of chronic disease and also, it now appears, help protect you from depression.

Incorporating a goal--one that at least feels useful--into workouts can make them far more enjoyable.

Turmeric and curcumin offer myriad health benefits, including reduced risk of cancer and Alzheimer's disease.

Find ways to satisfy the need for physical touch to promote contentment and comfort.

Retraining and Caring for the Mind

The Three Good Things intervention has the participant write down each day for a week three things that are going well and the reasons why.

The Using Signature Strengths intervention, in which the participant takes a test to identify his or her personal strengths, such as creativity or forgiveness, and uses a "top strength" in a new, different way daily for a week.

Aim to foster selflessness in daily life by creating opportunities to develop empathy and compassion and put the interests of others ahead of your own.

I recommend experimenting with visualization in two ways. The first is to practice shifting attention from negative thoughts to mental images that evoke positive feelings. The second is to select an image that you associate with your most positive moods and focus on it frequently. For example, think of an actual place where you experienced contentment, comfort, and serenity. Re-create that scene in your mind's eye, and each time you do, concentrate on sharpening the detail, making the colors brighter, even imagining sounds, physical sensations, and scents that might have been part of the experience. Keep that image as a place you can go to in your mind whenever you feel stressed, anxious, or sad.

Slow, deep, quiet, regular breathing simply cannot coexist with emotional turmoil, and it is much easier to learn to regulate the breath than to will negative moods to end. The most effective anti-anxiety measure I know is a quick and simple breathing technique that I call the 4-7-8 breath. Here it is:

  1. Place the tip of the tongue against the ridge behind and above the front teeth. Keep it there through the whole exercise.

  2. Exhale completely through the mouth (and puckered lips), making a whoosh sound.

  3. Close the mouth and inhale deeply and quietly through the nose to a (silent) count of 4.

  4. Hold the breath for a count of 7.

  5. Exhale through the mouth to a count of 8, making the same sound.

  6. Repeat steps 3, 4, and 5 for a total of four breaths.

Making the 4-7-8 breath part of your daily routine will increase your experience of serenity and comfort and give you greater emotional resilience. It will enable you to stop anxiety in its tracks. You need only spend a few minutes a day on this practice, but you must do it at least twice a day without fail.

If you want to be in optimum emotional health, realize that social isolation stands between you and it. Reach out to others. Join groups--to drum, meditate, sing, sew, read, whatever. Find communities--to garden, do service work, travel, whatever. We humans are social animals. Spontaneous happiness is incompatible with social isolation. Period.

Secular Spirituality

Émile Durkheim: "Man cannot live without attachment to some object which transcends and survives him."

Find ways to connect with nature. Take advantage of city parks. Bring natural beauty into your living space.

Try putting others first.